September 22, 2012
NuSTAR Space Telescope Marks 100th Day In Space
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Saturday marks the 100th day since the launching of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), officials from the U.S. space agency have confirmed.
Since being launched into space from the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft on Wednesday, June 13, NuSTAR has "been busy making its first observations of black holes, super-dense dead stars and the glowing remains of exploded stars," NASA officials noted in a Friday statement.
According to NASA, NuSTAR has a longer mast than any previous astronomical telescope and the flexible 33-foot (10-meter structure) allows the telescope "to focus high-energy X-rays into sharp images for the first time."
During the earliest phases of the mission, which is being led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the crew has been working to better understand how to use the device.
Specifically, they are attempting to master the mechanics of the mast and how to use those mechanics to point the telescope directly at various points of interest on NuSTAR's journey. Furthermore, NASA said that they have partnered with other observatories to make coordinated observation efforts.
"These joint observations allow astronomers to interpret data from their telescopes more precisely, and to gain a better overall understanding of some of the most extreme events in the cosmos," they explained. "As its journey continues, NuSTAR will explore many more targets in our galaxy and beyond."
In related news, on Tuesday, a team of NuSTAR scientists will be participating in an online round table discussion. The panel, which is scheduled to start at 6:30pm PDT and will be hosted on Google+, will focus on black holes. NuSTAR Principal Investigator Fiona Harrison and NuSTAR Instrument Manager Bill Craig will be among the participants in the discussion, according to the mission's Caltech homepage.
The NuSTAR mission centers around the first focusing telescopes to create images of the sky in the high energy X-ray (6 - 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Its primary mission phase is scheduled to last two years. During that time, the telescope will map specific areas of the sky in order to create a census of collapsed stars and black holes of various sizes.
In addition to attempting to better understand supernovas, NuSTAR will attempt to determine "what powers relativistic jets of particles from the most extreme active galaxies hosting supermassive black holes" and will also "offer opportunities for a broad range of science investigations, ranging from probing cosmic ray origins to studying the extreme physics around collapsed stars to mapping microflares on the surface of the sun," NASA officials said.